On Wednesday night, Russian forces began their attack on Ukraine, starting what many viewed as an inevitable invasion of the once soviet country. Once again, we find Russia and the United States on the brink of conflict, but their cooperation in space shows hope.
The International Space Station has been a champion of international cooperation. Keeping post-soviet scientists and engineers focused on the peaceful use of their technology and forming a tie of forced diplomatic relations bringing the adversaries closer.
Tensions between the two countries have come and gone throughout the years, but they are at a breaking point today. Right now, orbiting above Earth are Russian, American, and European astronauts conducting research that will benefit all of humanity, and that cooperation will continue.
Russia launched a Progress resupply mission earlier this month, and so far, there have been no changes to new crew launches in the coming months. Those include a Soyuz crew rotation and SpaceX’s Crew-4.
NASA’s Josh Finch told The Verge, “NASA continues working with the State Space Corporation Roscosmos and our other international partners in Canada, Europe, and Japan to maintain safe and continuous International Space Station operations.”
In a statement through Roscosmos’ social media, Director General Dmitry Rogozin stated, “We greatly value our professional relationship with NASA.” However, Rogozin is still upset with the United States’ sanctions on him and his industry, as he explained in a lengthy Twitter thread.
President Biden imposed more sanctions on the Russian government and its economy, including its aerospace industry and the space program. We don’t know the specifics of these sanctions, but in the past, NASA and Roscosmos have been able to overcome these to continue ISS operations.
Four of the five non-Russian astronauts will ride home this spring on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, but NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei relies on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. He is expected to return on Soyuz MS-19 in late March, landing in Kazakstan. According to the Outer Space Treaty, astronauts are to be treated as “envoys of mankind” and should be assisted in returning to their home country.
Russian and US seat swap deal still in talks
NASA is no longer reliant on Soyuz for crewed transport to the station; however, the two countries have been talking about trading seats on their respective vehicles, which could happen as soon as this fall. In addition, former astronaut and current NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana just recently visited Russia to negotiate a deal further. While nothing has been signed, both parties remain hopeful.
The international and Russian sides of the ISS rely on each other as power is generated from the American solar panels, and Russia controls the attitude control. This reliance on each other will force cooperation between the nations no matter what happens in Ukraine.
Our hearts here at Space Explored go out to those in Ukraine, and we wish for a resolution to be found quickly to bring peace back to the area.